An exhibition of reed paintings by Jean Bacon

August 14 – 24  2007,    Blythburgh church

Thumbnail index to the paintings

Thumbnail index of selected photos

Thumbnail index to the exhibition space

Thumbnail index of snapfish cards


Exhibition opening hours

Except during services, the exhibition can be visited whenever the church is open: notionally from 9 am until 6 pm every day.  There will be a service lasting less than an hour at 10 am on both Tuesday 14th and Tuesday 21st.  On Sunday 19th there is a service at 9.30, and the exhibition will be open from about 10.30 until 6 (when there is a brief Compline service).  We shall be sharing the church with the Blythburgh horticultural society on Saturday 18th, but that shouldn't be a problem.

The Exhibition at Blythburgh in retrospect

The exhibition at Blythburgh has now come and gone, and it's fair to say that it was an interesting experience all round.  The hours of opening were much longer than we were used to from past exhibitions, and that was tiring; but it never dragged, as the church is a wonderful space, and in particular it proved easy to write there.  The weather was pretty awful throughout the two weeks, but even so Jean sold enough pictures to make a decent contribution to our good causes.  And all sorts of interesting people turned up!

The only photographs of the exhibition currently available are those taken to show how the paintings looked when hung in the church.  A new thumbnail index for that set has been included above.  The plan is to add some of the photographs of the carved bench ends, also some more general architectural interiors and exteriors, when time permits.

A number of photographs were also included in the exhibition, all taken from the selection available above.  The only ones actually on display - as opposed to being in a portfolio - were two tableaux at the entrance to the screen space.  The 3x3 collection on the left showed the range of freshwater marshes that had inspired the paintings, from Covehithe in the north to Minsmere in the south.  The 4x4 collection on the right presented more detailed features - in particular, the second column was a bird quiz that proved popular, particularly with the children.

February 2008 reprise at the Art Centre in King's

Not many people from the Cambridge area came (it was great to see the ones that did!), so we've arranged to bring the exhibition to the Art Centre in King's in February 2008.  The idea is to combine the paintings that were left over from the exhibition with some of the new work that Jean experimented with while she was in the church - in particular the pew end carvings, and some of the architectural detail, notably the font and the spiral stair by the screen.  Depending on available space there may be one or two photographs of the reeds as well.  We shall be there at least between Sunday 17th February and Sunday 24th February inclusive, but will only open briefly over lunch time midweek.

There is a separate Web site for the February exhibition.

Accommodation in the Blythburgh area

There is lots of information on the Web, for example see Blythweb.

Getting to Blythburgh

Blythburgh is at the head of the Blyth estuary, where the A12 crosses it on a causeway.  The arrow on the map of NE Suffolk points to our house, part of a former 18th century House of Industry.  A close-up map shows the centre of the village, and in particular the church and the pub.  The NW arrow shows the entrance to our house (#22 Blyth View), while the arrow in the village itself marks the entrance to the church car park.  This is a gateway to the SW of Church Lane, SE of its junction with Priory Road.  If you come to the exhibition, please park in the church car park.

By public transport

By car:  from London and the SE                   from Norfolk                   from Cambridge and the Midlands

Good causes for August 2007

The paintings are for sale, and there are related items such as gift cards.  The exhibition is essentially non-profit making, though - once we've met the cost of the frames, any surplus will be split between two local good causes.

Blythburgh church

The south aisle roof has been leaking in recent storms, and an inspection has shown that it is in urgent need of re-leading.  About £200,000 is required, which is a lot for a small parish to find.  A formal appeal is to be launched in the autumn, but any contribution now will be more than welcome.


Reedbeds are an essential feature of freshwater marshes, which at present are under real threat.  Each winter brings new breaches of the sea defences, and salt water changes the whole ecosystem.  The RSPB has a significant presence on the East coast; Minsmere is only about six miles away, and the RSPB is also involved with several other local reserves.  A number of RSPB leaflets will be available at the exhibition.

We often walk between Walberswick and Dunwich, among marshes that are managed by a combination of the RSPB, Natural England and Suffolk Wildlife Trust.   Many of the scenes in the paintings derive from this area.

Background to the exhibition

Since moving to Blythburgh in April 2003 we have walked widely in the surrounding countryside, mainly in the strip of Suffolk coast between Benacre in the north and Minsmere in the south.  During that time we have become fascinated by the reedbeds, and in particular the changes of colour as the year proceeds, and the shifts in the light as the angle of the sun changes.

Ken Moody was commissioned to document the changes of light and colour in the reedbed for a complete year.  The project got off to a flying start on January 1st 2005, an exceptionally clear day with a low winter sun.  As luck would have it, January 1st 2006 was another beautiful day, and in any case the project had its own momentum by then.  So the reed photographs have continued, but the sense of discovery is gradually fading.

Jean Bacon started to paint her watercolours of the reeds in that New Year of 2006.  She used some of the photographs as an initial reference, but relied increasingly on her memory and imagination  As in the past, once the brushes that make reeds had become a part of her, freedom of expression sometimes moved her work in unexpected directions.

The three thumbnails are directly related to the exhibition.  The photograph on the left was taken on August 11th 2005, and so shows the reeds much as they were when it took place.  The scene is the artist walking down part of the Suffolk Coastal path that leads from Little Dingle to the freshwater marshes south of Walberswick.  The dragonfly on the right is a male broad-bodied chaser.  The painting in the middle derives quite closely from a photograph taken on January 1st 2006, showing the Blyth valley upstream from Blythburgh church, with the church itself in the background.  Finally, the view of the interior of the church was taken on the afternoon of March 20th 2007.  The church escaped improvement during the nineteenth century, and it is brilliantly lit on all but the dullest of days.  Depending on space, it is likely that a few of the photographs will also be on display at the exhibition.

There are various posters for the exhibition in .html:

A4 format        August reeds      River Blyth in winter      church interior
 A5 format        August reeds      River Blyth in winter      church interior  

In addition the following posters are available in .pdf:

A4 format        August reeds      River Blyth in winter      church interior
 A5 format        August reeds      River Blyth in winter      church interior  

August reeds    (A4 landscape,  will cut into two A5 portrait)